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Subject: Day Zero: A Review of The Resistance: Coup rss

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Simon Tan
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Tonight, there were a good number of people playing in a comic store above the book store on the second floor of a mall near my place. One great thing about joining an open-to-the-public gaming group is that there are many different tastes and many different styles of games. Tonight, Coup was the last game, and with two copies of the game, the settled in to two games of five people. After several plays, here is what I thought about it...

(Jump to Shortcut near the end if you just want a summary.)

COMPONENTS
The cards are well-made, and the colors of each role card are different enough that, once you know each of the roles, you can glance at the colors and know what two roles you have. The reference sheet is also pretty concise while containing all the details, and the colors help as well. The coins are nice, though someone wondered if people will still be using sim cards in that distant future.

One complaint is that the cards are sized significantly larger than normal. The small text on the cards about their abilities are not exactly that readable, and it is probably better to just glance quickly, then stare at your reference card instead; thus, the extra length is not quite warranted except for art purposes.

(I believe it is possible to use Dixit-sized sleeves... perhaps someone can confirm or offer a better option?)

RULES
The combination of rules and gameplay videos of Game Night! and Starlit Citadel do a very good job of explaining it, but the rules are very easy with the help of the reference card. I would remind newer players that there are three of each role, and which counter roles are allowed when, but otherwise this is a quick teach.

That said, this game is better learned from playing than teaching, so keep the explanations short, then note exceptions when necessary.

MECHANICS
The mechanics are simple: Each player has two hidden characters, and yet can claim the action of any character whether he has it or not. Eventually, someone is going to have to call a player out, and the one who is wrong (in calling out or claiming a role not in hand) loses one of the hidden characters. In the meantime, players will be getting coins either from their "hidden characters" or from the actions not associated by any role, and eventually a player may have enough coins to knock out one of two said roles. A player who loses both roles is out of the game. There is plenty of room of shenanigans and deceit, but there is just as much room for deduction and reasoning.

GAMEPLAY
A combination of claiming the right character that you may or may not have, remembering how many people claimed to be the Duke, and some guts in calling out potential liars while not revealing too much about your own roles are the key skills in this game. There is enough room for both diplomacy and deduction to keep this game from getting random, and yet there is so much information in each player's choice of action to keep players engaged. Each revealed card, either the aftermath of a challenge or a successful assassination or coup, reveals information on what is left, so you can only lie for so long as the game winds down.

The game is quick to bring out and put away, and there is plenty of room for discussion, tense moments, and holding grudges against any back-to-back winners.

Like most games of the hidden role genre, and all games of The Resistance line, deception and lies are expected. Some players and groups may have difficulty with this, so you may have to consider this when you decide this is right for your group or not. That said, there is less emphasis on deception than usual, but anyone who gets figured out easily isn't expected to win.

MY TAKE
This is the perfect game to play with strangers who you don't have a read on, as well as for those who you know... or at least want to believe you know. I played with a group that has played the game before, and knowing when to mix up your play and when to keep it straight is key. I managed to call out one player who "never lies on the first turn" on the first turn, but in doing so I revealed to one astute player that I had two copies of the claimed role and would have been eliminated soon if it were not for the bullseye on the birthday boy / back-to-back winner. The game can get predictable with the same group over and over, but that may be just familiarity breeding contempt.

That said, the game is pretty fun and solid for about three to five rounds. The store was closing, so we had five games. Even when I was eliminated early because I didn't know how many copies of each role was there, the play was quite fast and I was in the next round after about ten minutes. Also, newer players should pay attention to the group even when eliminated early or mid-way; there are so many things you can learn from observing the other players when they claim roles...

SHORTCUT
Okay, perhaps you don't like to read walls of text peppered with descriptions, rants, and melodramatic explanations, so I included a short descriptive summary (one word to one sentence) for each possible category that I can think of. It's an experiment, but I definitely don't want to just give stars or numbers...

COMPONENTS: Good and informative, but card size inconvenient for sleeves.
RULES: Simple to explain; better played than taught.
MECHANICS: Deception and deduction with enough clues and reason.
GAMEPLAY: Fast and attention-grabbing even outside your turn.
MY TAKE: Best with new groups of players.

SUGGESTIONS TO IMPROVE THE EXPERIENCE:
- Don't be too easy to read.
- Don't fall into a pattern.

***

This game is one of the many new deception and deduction games that will easily replace classic Werewolf for groups of six or less. What I like most about this is that blind luck isn't a great factor and that it doesn't rely completely on diplomacy. While I probably will not buy this now due to how few gamers I know, Coup is one game I am very happy to join in and start accusing people.
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Jeff Dunford
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Nice review.

It's the same sleeve size as 7 Wonders, so not too hard to find.
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Pas L
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I'm not a big fan of Coup, and I was expecting the opposite. I find that is just a longer more predictable version of Love Letter with some bluffing added.
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Simon Tan
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lamaros wrote:
I'm not a big fan of Coup, and I was expecting the opposite. I find that is just a longer more predictable version of Love Letter with some bluffing added.

Funny... that night, I played Love Letter before Coup... probably should've reviewed LL first, but since I actually owned LL, I wanted to get more input first from other groups.
 
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Luke Hector
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Blind luck isn't a factor? You'd be surprised how much actually is blind luck when 4-5 people start claiming they are the Duke because of how overpowered it is.

Love Letter is far better.
 
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Simon Tan
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farmergiles wrote:
Blind luck isn't a factor? You'd be surprised how much actually is blind luck when 4-5 people start claiming they are the Duke because of how overpowered it is.

Love Letter is far better.

The simplest solution here is to just challenge everyone who claims to be a duke if you are a legitimate duke in this situation. Sacrificing a few games to make claiming the duke an unattractive bluff helps unless the group is very dense.

A subtler approach for 5-6 player games would be for one of the real dukes is to claim ambassador (that will only be challenged by someone with a double-ambassador, and if it is one of the dukes... that's more information for the astute) and get information from the pile. If you have see a second duke (the odds are much better in a 6-player game, as there are fewer court cards to choose from) then dump both dukes, then automatically challenge the next one to claim duke. If he reveals a duke, either the rest of the board will wise up and do something else, or just automatically challenge the next "duke." Otherwise, start attacking the "dukes" (preferably with a role you actually have) with the "captain" role, since this will kind-of cancel out one duke, or open that duke to assassination, since claiming to be a duke is not without cost: you are "revealing" one of your cards.

That said, pure game theory will not solve this game or your group's meta. There are possible social or diplomatic reasons for certain actions. There are some blogs dealing with deep strategy; if you care to try, read here and here.

(If you play enough games with the same group, you could eventually start looking for tells a-la Casino Royale. Perhaps this is why I think this game is great with rotating groups of people.)

I will agree that Love Letter is better, but not because of your reasons. The game is far from perfectly solved in the beginning. I'll probably review that soon, when I get one more target group to try it out...
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Jeff Dunford
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After ~ 20 games of Coup and ~ 60 games of Love Letter, I'd say:

Love Letter is about 75% luck, 25% strategy and tactics
Coup is about 80% strategy and tactics, 20% luck

On the bright side, Love Letter plays with 2-4 (probably best with 3), while Coup is best 5-6... so the size of the group can determine which is "best" in a given situation.

And to the "Duke is OP" crowd, Captain beats Duke in a race. If you aren't representing Captain when against Dukes, you might want to rethink your strategy. P.S. when all else fails, you can always assassinate a Duke. There is almost always more than one answer to any situation in Coup; it's only a matter of finding the best one.
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Simon Tan
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After reading Luke Hector's comments on The Dice Tower review, I realize that I wasted my time posting such a long response; nothing any of us will say will matter to him... he's just going to say...

Youtube comment wrote:

Lol - love how people can't take when someone doesn't like their favourite game! :-) Why don't we like Temple Run: The Board Game - ah we're doing it wrong! 

We're just going to have to agree to disagree.

(Disclaimer: I haven't tried Temple Run: the Board Game, so I have no comment on it.)
 
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Luke Hector
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My issue with that comment was the whole mentality of "if you don't like a game it's because you play it wrong" which is hardly a fair and/or decent comment to make. It makes it sound like that if people played it right and still didn't like the game, you'd still assume they were playing it wrong.

One point I will make though - you mentioned the group meta. Any game that is wholly dependant on a proper group meta is already inherently flawed. Some games can be brought down a notch by certain types such as AP players in Euro games for example, but if a game can be destroyed purely because the group doesn't "play it right" as you say, then it loses it's status of being a light filler game. Love Letter in comparison can't be brought down by the same concept even if yes, it does have a little more luck involved.

And don't try Temple Run . . . . seriously don't!! laugh
 
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Simon Tan
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farmergiles wrote:
My issue with that comment was the whole mentality of "if you don't like a game it's because you play it wrong" which is hardly a fair and/or decent comment to make. It makes it sound like that if people played it right and still didn't like the game, you'd still assume they were playing it wrong.

Fair enough, I apologize.

That said, it probably wouldn't hurt to try what the others have suggested... use the captain or assassin, and don't be afraid to challenge. Worst case, you sit out for ten minutes. (This happened to me when I didn't know the card distribution, and two failed challenges saw me out before I even played a card.)

farmergiles wrote:
One point I will make though - you mentioned the group meta. Any game that is wholly dependant on a proper group meta is already inherently flawed. Some games can be brought down a notch by certain types such as AP players in Euro games for example, but if a game can be destroyed purely because the group doesn't "play it right" as you say, then it loses it's status of being a light filler game. Love Letter in comparison can't be brought down by the same concept even if yes, it does have a little more luck involved.

To be fair, I didn't say that you weren't "playing it right," but after hearing many curt responses like that from the Youtube comments, I understand why you would think so. My version of your statement would probably be "The game can be destroyed if the entire group becomes predictable." (It doesn't have to be the all-duke play. If a player develops a reputation of being honest in the first few turns and no one ever calls him out even when he does fib, then that player definitely has the advantage.)

That said, the more diplomacy-dependent a game is, the greater the risk of it being brought down. The reward is also greater, IMO, so it is a matter of how much you're willing to risk it.

Quote:
And don't try Temple Run . . . . seriously don't!! laugh

Given that it is not available here in my country, I cannot say Challenge... Accepted. Perhaps I dodged a bullet there...
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Luke Hector
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No worries mate. I like a good debate.

And I'm sure it will get more games every once in a while - some players in the groups I go to own this game and you're going to get roped in regularly (happens a lot with Avalon soblue) so I'll happily look into it - but I still from experience have done a lot better with Duke/Contessa.
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Jeff Dunford
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I've seen people win a 6 player game holding Contessa-Contessa, among other "weak" combinations.

One of the strongest combos is probably Ambassador-Contessa, because you can represent the Duke or Captain for most of the game, then use the Ambassador to swap cards (and/or prevent people from Captaining you) to get what you really need (Captain? Assassin?) in the late game, all while being immune to Assassination. There are lots of ways to convince people that you have something by reinforcing your behaviour - like using a Duke action to get 3 coins and also to deny Foreign Aid; or using a Captain action to steal from someone immediately after blocking someone from stealing from you. Convincing people of one thing and lying in wait for an opportunity before striking... that's what the game is about. There's very little luck involved. And there are a lot of ways to play any hand. I think the game gets better the more you play it with the same people, as they start to pick up on your behaviour ("he always takes Duke on the first turn, so I'll call him out on it next time") but then you can change it up. There's a lot of "he knows that I know that he knows" metagaming to this game. Coup really is more of an individual (vs. team) version of The Resistance, with mechanisms borrowed from Skull & Roses or Liar's Dice, rather than a reiteration of Love Letter.
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